En faire tout un flan


This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “En faire (tout) un flan.”

Literally translated as, “making a (whole) flan out of it,” it is a colloquial expression that means making a big deal out of something insignificant, blowing something out of proportion.

It is comparable to the English expressions, “making a mountain out of a molehill,” “making a song and dance about something,” and two edible idioms, “a storm/tempest in a teacup/teapot,” and “making a meal out of something.”

Example: “Si le plan de table ne lui va pas, il faut le changer, sinon il va en faire tout un flan.” “If the seating plan doesn’t suit him, we have to change it, otherwise he’ll make a whole flan out of it.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

(If no player appears, here’s a link to the audio file.)

This idiom is derived from the twentieth-century expression, “En faire (tout) un plat” (making a whole dish out of it), which also evolved into, “En faire (tout) un fromage” (making a whole cheese out of it). In all three cases, the idea is that the person takes what little there is, and turns it into something much more substantial: a few scraps into a whole dish; a little milk into a whole cheese; milk, eggs, and sugar into a whole flan.

You may also come across another version of this idiom, “Il n’y a pas de quoi en faire un flan” — there isn’t enough to make a flan out of it, or it’s not worth making a fuss about.

Note: Pictured above is half of an excellent flan from the Poilâne bakery, which, incidentally, won second place in the Figaroscope’s recent flan taste test.

  • I remember learning in French class about ‘putting your foot in the plate’–these are interesting for linguistically minded people–I’m going to pass this on to my Francophile friends!

  • What a fantastic expression! So much more fun (and tasty) than mountains and molehills.

  • Brenda

    Oh, please, we need a recipe for this!

  • I love learning about unique food traditions, especially French ones. Thanks Clotilde. I enjoyed your round up of 7 new Parisian eateries on MSNBC as well.


  • Isn’t French much more eloquent than English! At least, I prefer the inspiration drawn for it :) I’d also hedge that more of us have made more flans than molehills – and know how difficult they can be!

  • Liz

    In Yiddish there is an expression that someone is “making a tzimmes” out of something, which means roughly the same thing — making a mountain out of a molehill. Tzimmes is a delicious stove-top or oven-stewed dish of carrots, honey and dried fruit, often with other ingredients added, such as sweet potatoes and even meat, like brisket. It’s a very flexible (and delicious) dish.

  • Hum, qu’est-ce que c’est bon, les flans !!!
    C’est vrai qu’en France, on dit “En faire tout un flan”, j’adore cette expression !!!
    Kisses from France

  • Would you use this differently than “en faire tout un fromage?” which is what I hear a fair amount of down here in the Languedoc, or are they interchangeable? I love this series of expressions!

  • Abra – You would use them interchangeably. The “flan” variation is more recent, so you could target your audience according to their age. :)

  • Phil

    I’ve always wanted to learn French but I don’t think my tongue twists that way!

  • kim

    mmm, i don’t know about the flan, but that polaroid sure looks appetizing!

    cheers (:

  • Micky

    Funny, in spanish “estar hecho un flan”, something along the lines of “être un flan”, means to be really scared.

  • Parlant des flans, je lisais La vie devant soi, et le petit Momo parlais de “rester comme deux ronds de flan….”

    Il parait qu’on peut aussi faire un travail a la flan.

    Bravo pour l’idee de faire les edible idioms!

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